What Will Apple Do With $81 Billion Cash Stockpile?

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Apple Inc. logo seen through raindrops on window of Apple store in New York
The Apple Inc. logo is seen through raindrops on a window outside of the New York City flagship Apple store in New York, Jan. 18, 2011.

Apple has more than $81 billion of cash on its books, with about one-third held in the U.S. This is because of its continuing success of products like the iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac. So what will Apple do with all the cash hoard?

Apple is running out of realistic excuses. Apple recently announced that Robert Iger, President and CEO of Walt Disney Co., joined Apple's board and is serving on the audit committee.

Barclays Capital said Iger's appointment is interesting since former Chairman Steve Jobs was Disney's largest shareholder as well as a member of Disney's Board. Disney has been a strong partner and friend of Apple's iTunes distribution model.

In our opinion, the Board also faces an interesting decision over 2012 regarding its growing cash hoard, now at over $81 billion with about one third held in the U.S., said Ben Reitzes, an analyst at Barclays Capital.

Reitzes believes Cupertino, Ca;if.-based Apple has the ability to easily pay a dividend with a significant yield (2 percent to 4 percent range) along with the ability to grow it over time.

Furthermore, he believes consistent buybacks over time would be a better option than an accelerated buyback or a special dividend.

Iger has shown a propensity for consistent buybacks at Disney, based in Santa Monica, Calif., as well as more recent dividend increases. The analyst believes that Apple's board, which also includes former U.S. Vice President Al Gore could look at its cash strategy a bit differently over the course of 2012 and attract more value shareholders.

We believe Apple's valuation is attractive and that shares can benefit from strong iPad and iPhone demand, Mac share gains, international expansion and new innovations. We believe Apple deserves a higher multiple versus the group given our view that it is the best growth story in IT hardware over the long term, said Reitzes.

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